With numbers from a long-gone fortune cookie, NC Powerball winner ‘just got lucky’

Everyone knew someone had bought last week’s winning Powerball ticket worth $344.6 million in Hope Mills, but Charles W. Jackson Jr. didn’t realize it was him until Tuesday morning.

Even then, Jackson didn’t check all the numbers at first and thought he had won only $50,000. Jackson, who lives in Parkton, called his wife to tell her they needed to go to Raleigh to claim their prize.

“I said I think I won at least 50,000,” he said. “After I hung up the phone with her, I got back in there and looked and said, ‘Dang, I got ‘em all.’

“So then I called her back and said, ‘Look, I won the whole thing.’ She said, ‘Well how much is the whole thing?’ I said I don’t know, I just played. I don’t know what it is. And she said Google it.”

Jackson, 66 and retired, had won the largest lottery jackpot in North Carolina history. He opted to take the lump-sum payout option of $223 million, which after state and federal taxes will net him $158 million.

Jackson was clearly still a bit shocked when he appeared at N.C. lottery headquarters in Raleigh on Tuesday night.

“It hasn’t washed completely over me yet,” he said.

Jackson said he would donate money to three charities — St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Shriners Hospital for Children and the Wounded Warrior Project — and take a trip to Vietnam, where his wife is from. Other than that, he doesn’t have any plans.

“I don’t know what to do with most of it,” he said. “I hope it don’t change me a lot. I’m going to try not to change my life. I’m still going to wear jeans. Maybe newer ones.”

Powerball tickets are sold in 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, but Jackson bought the only ticket last week that matched all six numbers: 6, 15, 34, 45, 52 and the Powerball 8. The odds of winning are about 1 in 292.2 million.

Jackson said the numbers came from a fortune cookie that his stepdaughter got a couple of years ago, when she was six. He says he has played those same five numbers in Powerball and Mega Millions every week since, making changes to the sixth number every now and then.

“I never expected to win,” he said. “I just got lucky.”

Jackson bought the ticket at the Carlie C’s IGA in Hope Mills, a few miles southwest of Fayetteville. The store will receive a $50,000 award for selling the winning ticket.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.